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Asian American Medical Society

What is cancer?

People have always said that microwave cooking will cause cancer. However, that is not necessarily true. Some people only know that cancer is life-threatening while not knowing what cancer is. What is cancer? Cancer is a disease that makes cells divide uncontrollably and spread into other tissues. Cancer is caused by genetic changes, which are changes in the DNA segments. There aren’t strong evidences to support the claim that microwave cooking is cancerous, but, hypothetically speaking, microwave cooking can be cancerous because of other factors. The exposure of plastic coverings of the food to the microwave can cause carcinogens (any substance that may cause cancer by affecting the DNA and causing it to mutate).

Microwave as an electromagnetic radiation

Microwaves are a type of low-frequency magnetic radiation that scientists classify as non-ionizing. Other electromagnetic radiations that scientists classify as non ionizing are infrared radiation and radio waves. Non-ionizing radiation does not affect cancer. However, high-frequency radiation, which is known as ionizing radiation, will affect cancer. Some examples of ionizing radiation are X-rays and Gamma rays. Ionizing radiation causes cancer by knocking electrons off of atoms. However, non-ionizing radiation leaves electrons intact.

Function of microwave and increased risks

Microwave ovens are powered by magnetrons, which turn electricity to microwave energy. When food is placed in a microwave, the energy causes water molecules in the food to vibrate, which generate heat without altering the structure of the food. Microwave cooking has a possibility of creating carcinogens at higher power settings. Some examples are:

Acrylamide: Carcinogens formed when sugar or starches are heated at a very high temperature.

Bisphenol A (BPA): Potential carcinogenic substance used to make plastic hard and clear. Microwaving at a high temperature might cause BPA to stick onto food.

Phthalates: Potential carcinogenic substances that make plastics softer and more flexible. Microwaving at a high temperature might also cause phthalates to stick onto food.

These risks are hypothetical risks, and there isn't strong evidence that supports them. Antioxidant is a strong substance that plays a role when it comes to microwave cooking. Antioxidants neutralize substances called free radicals that damage DNA. Some carcinogens, like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), are created when animal protein is grilled for a long time. Therefore, reducing the time to grill animal protein will decrease this risk.


In conclusion, microwaves will not affect cancer, but incorrectly using microwave ovens can be dangerous. Microwave ovens are much safer than people have expected even though it is a type of electromagnetic radiation. On the other hand, cancer is life-threatening and there are many causes. One of the main causes of Cancer is an unhealthy lifestyle.


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